THROW THE BOOK AT THEM: Fifteen years after Linda Fairstein first championed God’s Love We Deliver’s “Authors in Kind” annual luncheon, she was back at it Wednesday afternoon at the Metropolitan Club.
The former prosecutor-turned-crime-author served as emcee in saluting this year’s Authors in Kind Jeffrey Banks, Jennifer Egan and Alex Guarnaschelli. Before she turned over the podium to other speakers, Fairstein told the crowd how the nonprofit has served 1.7 million meals since last year’s event. The gathering was bookended with signings by the three authors, and Fairstein, whose 20th crime thriller “Blood Oath” is due out in January. Even the table centerpieces were book-related, with Alexandra Abuza-designed flowers chosen to match the notes of the classic fragrance Norell named for Norman Norell.
Banks, who penned “Norell: Master of American Fashion,” reminisced about the designer’s one-night only retrospective with live models at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in 1972. “I was going to school and working for Ralph Lauren. I said to Ralph, ‘You’ve got to buy tickets for this. This is incredible.’ He said, ‘Who is this Norell?’ I said he’s only the greatest American designer ever — which is not what your boss really wants to hear.’ But he bought the tickets anyway, we went to the black tie evening and it was amazing,” Banks said.
Food Network judge and “The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart” author Guarnaschelli said, “I think it’s very fitting to follow a book about fashion and clothing with a book that doesn’t allow you to fit into the clothes. Queen of the Elastic Waist — here I am. This is sort of a personal book but my mother is a cookbook editor of the highest order. Steven Spielberg’s kids, do they direct movies? It took me many years to write a cookbook because I had anxiety dreams with my mother standing over me with a red pencil, saying, ‘Do you really think that’s a good idea?’ I would look down and it would only say, ‘the.’”
Egan, the 2011 Pulitzer winner for fiction and PEN America’s new president, spoke of an eight-year quest to find out everything she could about the Brooklyn Navy Yard, research which resulted in her latest book “Manhattan Beach.” “What allows a writer to get inside the mind of another person is empathy. It’s what let’s us write fiction and it is what makes the reading experience enriching and nourishing,” she said. “Fiction is still the only art form that can actually place you inside the mind and thoughts of another person. I often feel nowadays that there is too little empathy in our country and our culture, so much more emphasis on our differences than on the basic human needs and desires that bind all of us.”
Guests included novelist Dave King, “60 Minutes” star Lesley Stahl and Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. As the crowd broke up, Fairstein shot an iPad photo of Lis Wiehl, whose “Hunting Charles Manson” will soon be out. Busy researching her own crime book at Rockefeller University, Fairstein said, “It’s got a bit of #MeToo in it. There is a story based on a real case of a woman who came forward years later to say that a law enforcement official had abused her when she was a witness in a trial. The main character has my old job. I was a prosecutor for more than 30 years in Manhattan, so she is a much younger prosecutor.”
Asked for a prediction for Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial, Fairstein, who previously headed up the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit, said, “I think there is a very strong chance this time of him being convicted. There were so many things different including the testimony of other women allowed about him. You’re fighting always the celebrity nature of the defendant as somebody who was such a popular figure as a father-doctor [on TV] that you never know what a jury’s going to do. I was not optimistic with the first jury because so much evidence had been kept out of the courtroom. I really do think there is a good likelihood this time.”